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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous" (Rom 5:19) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

Saint of the Month

Saint Thomas Becket
Feast Day - December 29

Thomas Becket (also known as Saint Thomas of Canterbury) is venerated as a saint and martyr by both Catholics and Anglicans.

Becket was born in around 1120, the son of a prosperous London merchant. As a young man, he loved hunting and other sports. He was handsome, very intelligent and pleasant to talk to. In 1141, he entered the service of Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, and in that household, he won his master's favour and eventually became the most trusted of all his clerks.

Becket's talents were noticed by King Henry II and the two became close friends and when Thomas was thirty-six, the king made him his chancellor. As chancellor of England, Thomas had a large household and lived in splendor. The chroniclers speak with wonder of the relations which existed between Thomas and the king, who was twelve years his junior. People declared that "they had but one heart and one mind" - such close friends were they. Often the king and his minister behaved like two schoolboys at play. But although they hunted or rode at the head of an army together, it was no mere comradeship in pastime which united them. Both were hard workers, and both had the prosperity of the kingdom deeply at heart. In many matters they saw eye to eye. Thomas at the age of thirty-six became, the most powerful subject in Henry's wide dominions. The king's imperial views and love of splendour were quite to the taste of his minister. When Thomas went to France in 1158 to negotiate a marriage treaty, he travelled with such pomp that the people said: "If this be only the chancellor what must be the glory of the king himself?"

Yet Thomas was also very good to the poor. Although he was proud and quick-tempered, he performed many hidden acts of penance. He prayed long hours, often into the night.

When Theobald died in 1162, Henry chose Becket as his next Archbishop of Canterbury. The decision angered many leading churchmen. They pointed out that Becket had never been a priest, had a reputation as a cruel military commander and was very materialistic (Becket loved expensive food, wine and clothes). They also feared that as Becket was a close friend of Henry II, he would not be an independent leader of the church. It would just mean that Thomas would have to be ordained a priest. But Thomas told the king plainly that he did not want to be the archbishop of Canterbury. He realised that being in that position would put him in direct conflict with Henry II. Thomas knew that he would have to defend the Church and that would mean trouble.

"Your affection for me would turn into hatred," he warned Henry. The king paid no attention and Thomas was made a priest and a bishop in 1162.

At first, things went along as well as ever. After being appointed, Thomas began to show a concern for the poor. Every morning thirteen poor people were brought to his home. After washing their feet, Thomas served them a meal. He also gave each one of them four silver pennies.

A great change took place in the saint's way of life after his consecration as archbishop. Before the end of the year 1162 he stripped himself of all signs of the lavish display which he had previously affected. He was very far from assuming the licentious manners of those around him. No word was ever breathed against his personal purity. Foul conduct or foul speech, lying or unchastity were hateful to him, and on occasion he punished them severely. He seems at all times to have had clear principles with regard to the claims of the Church, and even during this period of his chancellorship he more than once risked Henry's grievous displeasure. He went barefoot to receive the envoy who brought him the pallium from Rome. Contrary to the king's wish, he resigned the chancellorship.

The king and his archbishop's friendship was put under strain when it became clear that Becket would now stand up for the church in its disagreements with the king. Those that had sought the privilege of a trial in a Church court were not exclusively clergymen. Any man who had been trained by the church could choose to be tried by a church court. Even clerks who had been taught to read and write by the Church, but had not gone on to become priests, had a right to a Church court trial. This was to an offender's advantage, as church courts could not impose punishments that involved violence such as execution or mutilation. There were several examples of clergy found guilty of murder or robbery who only received "spiritual" punishments, such as suspension from office or banishment from the altar.

The king decided that clergymen found guilty of serious crimes should be handed over to his courts.

At first, the Archbishop agreed with Henry on this issue but after talking to other church leaders Becket changed his mind. Henry was furious when Becket began to assert that the church should retain control of punishing its own clergy. The king believed that Becket had betrayed him and was determined to obtain revenge.

All too soon, however, the king began to demand money which Thomas felt he could not rightly take from the Church. The king grew more and more angry with his former friend. Finally, he began to treat Thomas harshly. The king gave orders that the church, and all the goods of the archbishop and his adherents, should be confiscated. He proscribed and drove into exile all the archbishop’s kindred and friends, making no distinction of rank, or order, or condition, or fortune, or age, or, sex. This mad fury proceeded yet further, and broke out into cruelties shocking to religious ears. For while the catholic church prays for even heretics and schismatics, and unbelieving Jews, the king ordered that none should help the archbishop with their prayers.

For a while, Thomas was tempted to give in a bit. Then he began to realise just how much Henry hoped to control the Church. Thomas was very sorry that he had even thought of giving in to the king. He did penance for his weakness, and ever after held firm.

In 1164, realising the extent of Henry's displeasure, Becket fled into exile in France, and remained in exile for several years. He returned in 1170.

Under the protection of Henry's old enemy, King Louis VII, Becket organised a propaganda campaign against Henry. As Becket was supported by the pope, Henry feared that he would be excommunicated. Becket continued to excommunicate his opponents in the church, the news of which also reached Henry. Upon hearing reports of Becket's actions, Henry is said to have uttered words that were interpreted by his men as wishing Becket killed.

The king was quoted as saying "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?"

Some of his knights took him seriously. They went off to murder the archbishop. On the 29th of December, 1170, just as vespers were beginning, four knights broke into the cathedral, crying: "Where is the archbishop? where is the traitor?" The monks fled, and St. Thomas might easily have escaped. But he advanced boldly, saying, "Here I am, no traitor, but archbishop and priest of God." They tried to drag him from the church, but were unable, and in the end they slew him where he stood, scattering his brains on the pavement. His faithful companion, Edward Grim, who bore his cross, was wounded in the struggle.

The entire Christian world was horrified at such a crime. Pope Alexander III held the king personally responsible for the murder. Miracles began to happen at Thomas' tomb. He was proclaimed a saint by the same pope in 1173.

Six months later Henry II. submitted to be publicly scourged at the Saint's shrine, and restored to the Church her full rights.

Thomas Becket is the patron saint of the clergy - both pastoral and secular clergy.

Reflection on the life of Thomas Becket: If you see anything in me that you regard as a fault, feel free to tell me in private. For from now on people will talk about me, but not to me.

It is dangerous for men in power if no one dares to tell them when they go wrong.

 
Divine Updates

MAGNIFICAT in Bangalore

Celebrate an evening with our Lord in Bangalore at the 'Magnificat' on December 16, 2017. Services to be led by Fr Augustine Vallooran VC. All are welcome.

Venue: St. Joseph's Boys' School Chapel, Museum Road, Bangalore

Retreats at the Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby, Sydney

Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby to hold retreats throughout 2017. For bookings, email Fr Roni George, Director - drcsydney@gmail.com. Hurry, as admission is limited.

Date: January 2018 - December, 2018

Emmanuel Conference at DRC

Welcome to the season of blessings - mark this Advent with special retreats for discipleship, couples and children at the Divine Retreat Centre. A time to strengthen yourself in the Lord, before the end of the year. Led by Fr Augustine Vallooran and the Divine team.

Date: December 24 - 29, 2017

Retreats in Divine Retreat Centre, UK

Divine Retreat Centre, Ramsgate UK, has announced several English and Malayalam language retreats to be led by Fr. George Panackal VC and Fr. Joseph Edattu VC. All are welcome.

Dates: Jan - Dec, 2018

Hindi Convention Ojas 2018

The Divine Retreat Centre will conduct our eighth Hindi convention, in 2018. Two retreats will be held simultaneously on the campus; one for adults and another for couples and youth. All are welcome.

Date: May 27 - June 1, 2018

Divine Retreat Schedules

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